With Mad Max: Fury Road rampaging into theaters, fans of post-apocalyptic movies are in a leather-clad frenzy. Director George Miller all but perfected the genre with Max Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981)—his return to these dusty stomping grounds is cause for celebration. Despite their overwhelming cynicism, films about the end of the world have an excellent pedigree: Many transcend their set-ups as action movies or animated fantasies, touching on something essential and cautionary about human nature. Here are the 10 most nightmarish examples. See these post-apocalyptic movies and you’ll have a clear window into several alternate futures, all worth contemplating.
The 10 scariest post-apocalyptic movies
Brace yourself for doomsday with these 10 visionary classics, filled with tips for surviving the end of the world
Michael Bay would sneer at Michael Haneke’s post-apocalyptic vision, with nary a catastrophe in sight. But Isabelle Huppert, cutting her way through the unspoiled French countryside with flaming torch and two kids in tow, makes the whole enterprise absorbing—a primitive test of motherhood shorn of alarmist politics or moralizing.
Watch the little boy from Witness waste away from radiation sickness. Lynne Littman’s harrowing drama is about a suburb trying to keep up appearances after the bombs fall. Stubbornly, the residents cling to the vestiges of civilization, including a school play of “The Pied Piper,” which gets performed during a devastating climax.
Make sure your bunker has room for the title character—a crazy scientist who, nonetheless, has a plan to keep going. More than half a century after Stanley Kubrick unleashed his most perverse provocation, it’s amazing that we’re even here to enjoy it.